Rewards do not imply any slur

25th May 2007 at 01:00
We should not be too hasty to pour scorn on the idea of rewarding teachers'

attendance (page 3). But Rhys Williams, from the NUT Cymru, was quick to do this with the scheme Susan John has devised at Crymlyn primary school in Neath. He suggests it could be seen as a slur on genuinely sick teachers.

In all workforces there are employees who are more conscientious and less likely to ring in sick, leaving their managers with a staffing headache.

However, having a dig at more absent staff doesn't seem to be the intention of Mrs John, who enthusiastically told of her attendance-raising efforts at the National Association of Head Teachers' annual conference in Bournemouth earlier this month.

In times where many leaders are too busy to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of their staff, it is a refreshing move on her part. Mrs John is obviously embarking on a series of morale-boosting exercises for both pupils and staff. If the staff support it, then clearly this is a way of building team spirit. It also sounds like a lot of fun for school staff constantly bogged down with initiatives and stories of doom and gloom in the classroom.

Teacher Support Cymru, which was set up in 2002 to help teachers with problems they encounter, will officially open a bilingual counselling service next month. The service could be a vital lifeline for teachers in Wales, going by recent surveys conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Debt, according to the union's findings, tops a list of worries for newly qualified teachers. Added to that are the high levels of stress connected with increasing bad behaviour from disruptive pupils, threats of violence and even physical assault.

It seems the staff at Crymlyn primary see this reward scheme as Mrs John meant it - an effort to recognise their dedication. If it has lifted spirits, and brought some light relief to what is a difficult and sometimes dangerous job, Mrs John has succeeded in her goal. Good on her.

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